Solo Kasina Retreat - invite to comment

Matt Findlay, modified 1 Year ago at 3/21/21 11:03 AM
Created 1 Year ago at 3/21/21 11:03 AM

Solo Kasina Retreat - invite to comment

Posts: 2 Join Date: 3/21/21 Recent Posts
Fire Kasina – Solo retreat

Hi everyone, first post here, I hope this is in roughly the right place.  Just want to share my plan for a solo-retreat and invite any comments, tips or advice from those with more experience.  Thanks in advance if you take the time to read this and reply.  I apologise for this being a long post, but I hope that including some background, context and detail will lead to more specific and useful responses.

A little background:  I have been ‘meditating’ for several years – originally working with various apps such as headspace, calm, waking up and bright-mind.  Despite sitting for over an hour every day, I reached a point a few months ago where I felt I had hit a plateau and wasn’t really sure where I was going with it all.  I subsequently discovered and read TMI and then MCTB (amongst many other texts) and these two sources totally transformed my understanding of the practices (and shed a lot of light on how much I had previously been faffing around aimlessly, wasting my time!)  I would say I’m currently at stage 5-6 according to the TMI model.

In addition to recognizing how ineffectual my practice has been in the past, this maturity has also helped me to recognise that there are some approaches to practice that resonate much more naturally with me, and to realise that there is nothing inherently wrong with pursuing more fruitful or effective avenues.  In particular I found that the ‘feeling the breath in the body’ practice introduced at stage 5 had a lasting effect (i.e. not just in meditation – but throughout ‘normal life’) on my awareness of energy in the body - feeling more alive and vibrant, with more ‘life force’, even after just a few days of incorporating it informally into my sits.  Nothing I’ve done prior to that had anything like that level of visible ‘progress’.

Another natural attraction is ‘flow’: As a younger man I competed at a world class level in sport and would periodically enter flow states – something I found both exhilarating and mind blowing.  I recognise now that this was the true draw of sports (and later playing music) for me, as well as being incredibly refreshing and re-generative.

So, taking into account what I know about myself, my own proclivities, etc, I have decided to have a big push on my concentration and plan to use the fire kasina as the means to do this.  Why fire kasina?  I don’t know exactly – it just seems to speak to me.  I have been working with it in short daily sessions for a couple of weeks and can get stable red dot through to ‘black hole’ at this point.  I have read and listened to most of what is on the fire kasina website.

So, to finally get to the point; I have a two-week holiday coming up (Easter) with the following plan:
Firstly, I intend to do five days of intensive fire kasina practice – as a retreat, although I will be doing it at home, on my own.  I would like to shoot for 12-15 hours per day.  This is Friday 2nd to Tuesday 6th of April inclusive.  I have to be back at work on Monday the 19th of April.  I have nothing critical or important planned in between.

I have never done a meditation retreat so I will be trying to create optimal conditions with no actual experience of it.  (fwiw, I have done longer sits – up to two hours uninterrupted, sitting completely still.)

Secondly, From Wednesday the 6th I would expect to scale things back – perhaps to around 3 hours per day for the remainder of the holiday and want to explore jhanas – something I have not done before.  I plan to start with the whole-body jhana as described in TMI, and maybe the pleasure jhana – depending on what my concentration is like after the 5 days of fire kasina.

My objectives for the two weeks are
  • To get very concentrated – ‘effortlessly stable exclusive attention’.
  • explore and develop a deeper understanding of attention and intention,
  • explore fire kasina with curiosity and fun
  • explore and begin to discover the jhanas
  • lay the foundations of concentration for insight practices to follow
  • be sharp, refreshed and ready to go back to work on the 19th.

I have the flexibility to spend more days in ‘retreat’ mode if I wanted, and I could also balance the amount of time spent meditating in different ways – for example I could just shoot for 5 hours per day every day for the two weeks instead of going full intensity at the beginning. 

If you have any thoughts, observations, or comments I welcome all input.  Any tips on how to structure a 15 hour day of kasina practice would be most appreciated, and your thoughts on switching it up from the kasina practise initially into body sensation based jhanas later on – good/bad idea? 

Again, apologies for the long post and thank you for sticking with it!
George S, modified 1 Year ago at 3/21/21 1:47 PM
Created 1 Year ago at 3/21/21 1:17 PM

RE: Solo Kasina Retreat - invite to comment

Posts: 2460 Join Date: 2/26/19 Recent Posts
Hi Matt,

Welcome to the DHO! I love the enthusiasm. emoticon

My only comment is that 12-15 hours per day is pretty intense for a first retreat! People have been known to fry themselves on much lower doses ...

I just posted this video on Brandon's retreat thread, but it could be interesting for you as well. It's Ajahn Brahm talking about how to ease into a retreat and let your mind go where it naturally wants to go rather than forcing it. In case you don't know him, he is one of the more hardcore jhana advocates out there, so it's worth taking his advice seriously!

EDIT: Just reread your post - another way of saying the same thing ... go with the flow! emoticon
Matt Findlay, modified 1 Year ago at 3/22/21 1:01 PM
Created 1 Year ago at 3/22/21 1:01 PM

RE: Solo Kasina Retreat - invite to comment

Posts: 2 Join Date: 3/21/21 Recent Posts
Thank you for that George, and thanks for the welcome.
I followed the link and did watch the whole video ("overcoming thinking") but I'm not sure which part you are referring to.  Working with the mind rather than fighting it is something I've found naturally works well for me, so I am with him there.

The balance of 'structure' vs 'going with the flow' is going to be important because I am doing this at home, so the potential for distraction and diversions is higher than if I were going away somewhere.  I will need to be quite disciplined but flexible.  I'm also wondering how best to structure each day.